Interior Minister: Arab Citizens Not an Object to Be Moved in Peace Deal

Gideon Sa'ar criticizes Lieberman's proposal for Israeli Arab land and population swap as part of a future deal with the Palestinians.

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Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar criticized Tuesday a proposal by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to transfer several Israeli Arab towns, including their residents, to a future Palestinian state.

"An Israeli citizen is not an object and cannot be moved under a peace accord," Sa'ar said during a visit to the Galilee Arab town of Sakhnin."The Arab citizens of Israel are citizens with equal rights, and their citizenship must not be hindered under any future peace deal."

"We can talk about equal rights and equal responsibilities, but revoking citizenship shouldn't be up for debate," Sa'ar said.

Lieberman said on Sunday that a peace agreement with the Palestinians must include the exchange of Israeli Arab land and population. Lieberman went to explain that he means was referring to the Triangle and Wadi Ara, a predominantly Arab region near the Green Line.

Israeli Arab leaders soon brush aside Lieberman’s proposal. The city of Umm al-Fahm, which is located in Wadi Ara, published a statement on Monday branding Lieberman’s proposal as a “second Nakba,” using the Arabic word for the “catastrophe,” and referring to what happened to Palestinians during Israel’s founding in 1948.

“We are the children of this land. We inherited it from our ancestors, and nobody can speak or negotiate on our behalf in any future agreement with the Palestinians,” the statement read.

MK Jamal Zahalka, chairman of Balad and a resident of Kfar Kara said that Lieberman’s plan is rejected by both the Israeli Arab public and the Palestinian Authority.

“This plan might have dangerous repercussions, placing a question mark on the legitimacy our citizenship,” he said.

MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al), a resident of Taibeh, defined the proposal as delusional and immoral, adding that it was never raised in the negotiations by Israel or the United States, but is nonetheless still promoted by Lieberman every so often.

“We take our nationality seriously, as well as our citizenship. Israeli Arab citizens are not pawns to be moved on a board. The mere comparison with the settlers is absurd, but if the Israeli government is willing to recognize UN decision 181 [the 1947 partition plan], it should give us a call.”

Palestinian officials said Monday that Lieberman’s proposal was never mentioned or debated during the current round of talks. They also noted that the U.S. has never raised the issue in meetings with Palestinian leaders.

Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar at a press conference, August 21, 2013.Credit: Moti Milrod
Foreign Minister Avigdor LiebermanCredit: Emil Salman

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